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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might have stumbled upon a successful formula in the short-term, and the 3-4-1-2 formation could bring his team another win on Tuesday.
Back Manchester United and both teams to score (+275)
One down, two to go. Following Manchester United’s astonishing 5-0 demolition by Liverpool, it was widely reported that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had three games to save his job. Those stories added, though, that the United hierarchy could relieve the manager of his duties if Saturday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur went badly. It did not. United ran out 3-0 winners and Solskjaer lives to fight another day.
It is inarguable that the Norwegian is not as good a coach as his closest competitors in the Premier League, Thomas Tuchel, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Yet he does have a knack for getting results when he needs them most, and Saturday’s victory shows he has not lost the faith of the players. Solskjaer made some bold calls in shifting to a 3-4-1-2 formation and leaving Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho on the bench. But those gambles paid off as United eased to victory over lackluster opposition.
Solskjaer is not out of the woods yet. Spurs have been underwhelming for most of the campaign and it did not take much for United to beat them. Moreover, the big games keep on coming. A loss to Atalanta on Tuesday and another to Manchester City on Saturday would put Solskjaer back at square one. The 48-year-old cannot afford for another step forward to be followed by two more back.
Still, some of the gloom has lifted thanks to that win in north London and United will arrive in Bergamo with renewed confidence. With six points from a possible nine putting them top of Group F at the midway point of the group phase, United have their fate in their own hands. Collecting three more points on Tuesday would put the team in a commanding position and their manager in a more comfortable one.
Gian Piero Gasperini will have been hugely disappointed with his team’s 3-2 defeat by Manchester United in the reverse fixture last month. Atalanta stormed into a 2-0 lead in the first half and looked to be well on their way to a famous victory at Old Trafford, but they were unable to withstand ferocious pressure from the home team after the break. In the end, United deserved the win, and Atalanta now has plenty of work to do in order to qualify for the knockout stage.
Currently third in the group but level on points with Villarreal in the second spot, this game will not make or break Atalanta’s European prospects. Yet with a winnable game against Young Boys coming up on matchday five, a draw or victory here would leave the Italian outfit in a fantastic position after four games. Gasperini will implore his players to seize that opportunity.
Atalanta drew 2-2 with Lazio in Serie A at the weekend, leaving them just outside the top four. Marten de Roon scored in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time to rescue a point for Gasperini’s side, and that is now three home games on the bounce without a win. La Dea was better on the road than at the Gewiss Stadium the last term, and United will draw confidence from Atalanta’s mixed results on their own patch in recent weeks.
Solskjaer will stick with the template that brought his team victory at the weekend. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani will start up top with Bruno Fernandes tucked in behind, and Raphael Varane will anchor a back three with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire either side of him. United will not press high up the pitch and will instead focus on forming a compact, well-drilled shape out of possession. They will not be overly concerned with dominating the ball and will be happy to cede control of it to Atalanta for large portions of the game.
Needless to say, there is no guarantee that the same formula will bring the same result. Atalanta are a much more dangerous team going forward than Tottenham. Unlike Nuno Espirito Santo, Gasperini dedicates a lot of time in training to coaching attacking patterns. Varane, Lindelof and Maguire can expect to be in for a busier evening on Tuesday than they were on Saturday.
At the same time, United possess an abundance of attacking quality and look well placed to score against opponents who have kept only three clean sheets in 14 games in all competitions this campaign. Given that Atalanta have scored in all but one of those matches, it would be wise to back a Manchester United win and both teams to score.
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|Atalanta vs Manchester United Information|
|Teams||Atalanta vs Manchester United|
|Location||Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo, Italy|
|Time||Tuesday, 2 November 2021, 16.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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